The end of gardening season seems to be coming to a close in most places, or it seems that way to most. However, is that entirely true? Isn't there crops that are frost resistant and cold hardy and those that will overwinter well? Yes, there are many crops that can be brought through winter. Overwintering crops, roughly, is the act of taking crops through winter, dormant, without dying, so when spring arrives they are already planted and grown some when they begin growing again.
According to naplesnews.com, a Florida online newspaper, in an article dated Oct. 5, “This is a good month to start planning for vegetable and flower gardens. Prepare your beds by tilling the soil and adding amendments like peat and manure. Then let the beds rest until the cooler weather arrives to begin planting. This is also a good month to plant bulbs. And if there are some plants from the north you would love to plant in your garden you can do so after you feel the cooler winds. They will last until our hot weather returns in late spring.”
No doubt, there are many things that must be done in order to prepare the garden for the next planting season, such as spread compost, manure, maybe some ash from the wood stove as it burns through the cooler fall months. Ash puts loads of nitrogen back into the soil. But there are also some other chores that can be done that will guarantee a spring garden that others will ask you about. One task is planting winter crops that you will overwinter.
Many homesteaders, that are connected to the traditional ways of gardening, will plant certain crops in the fall and overwinter them using specific techniques and in the spring after the ground thaws and begins to warm, will have an earlier harvest than everyone else. In this article we will talk about how to overwinter spinach. Step 1- Plant cold weather varieties closer than you normally would. “Tyee” type spinach is a good one to plant as well as “Giant Winter” type. They will grow well through winter and not be hurt like some of the other types.
This works best if the soil has been cooled, and if the seeds are planted about 6 weeks before the first frost, you want them to reach 3-4 inches wide before the first frost. Step 2- After sowing them, thin them to six inches apart when they have 3 leaves. After about 2 easy frosts the spinach is ready to overwinter. Cover the plants with about 12 inches of straw. If you are in a location that gets below freezing for weeks at a time you want to also cover the spinach with a moveable plastic cover, like a small greenhouse.
Step 3- They will go dormant and last through winter. When the ground starts to warm up and the freezes are over, in spring, uncover the spinach beds a little at a time each week until all straw is off. It is also good practice to start them off growing well by fertilizing the plants with an organic fertilizer such as fish spray. You will have a very early harvest of spinach when others are just putting seeds in the ground!